Re: Richard Raymond Williams/S/S Jacob Thompson
Posted by Ron Carlson on April 3, 2014, 11:43 am, in reply to "Richard Raymond Williams/S/S Jacob Thompson"
I found records for your father, listed as Richard Williams, Richard Williams Jr. or Richard R. Williams Jr., aboard two vessels between late 1943 and early 1946. One of the two was SS JACOB THOMPSON, the second was SS JARED INGERSOLL. The information comes from a search at the subscription website Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com). That site is more commonly used for genealogical research but it also contains databases with the names of crewmen and passengers aboard merchant ships that arrived at certain U.S. ports of entry following a foreign voyage. Information for New York is particularly extensive.
Following are summaries of the voyages that your father made on the two ships.
Departed New York 12/28/43, convoy HX-273, arrived Liverpool approx. 01/14/44
Departed Liverpool 01/24/44, convoy ON-221, arrived New York 02/12/44
Departed New York 03/06/44, convoy HX-282, arrived Liverpool mid/late March 1944
Departed Liverpool 03/23/44, convoy ON-229, arrived New York 04/07/44
Departed Philadelphia 06/01/44, departed New York 06/10/44, convoy HX-295
Arrived Liverpool approx. 06/24/44
Departed Liverpool, arrived Loch Ewe, Scotland, unspecified dates
Departed Loch Ewe 06/30/44, convoy UR-126, arrived Reykjavik, Iceland, 07/04/44
Departed Reykjavik 07/07/44, convoy RU-126, arrived Loch Ewe 07/11/44
Departed Loch Ewe unspecified date, joined convoy ON-244 from Liverpool, arrived New York 07/23/44
Departed New York 07/31/44, departed Norfolk 08/03/44, convoy UGS-50
Arrived Algiers, Algeria, unspecified date
Various short convoys within Mediterranean Sea during August/September 1944
Departed Taranto, Italy 09/09/44, joined convoy GUS-52 from Augusta, Sicily, arrived New York 10/07/44
Departed New York 11/14/44, convoy HX-320, arrived Liverpool approx. 11/30/44
Departed Southend, England 12/08/44, convoy ON-271, arrived New York 12/28/44
Departed Portland, Maine 04/24/45, arrived Mediterranean Sea, unspecified date
Departed Oran, Algeria 06/12/45, arrived New York 06/26/45
Voyage from Algeria to New York in June 1945 was likely not in convoy since the war in Europe had ended
Departed Philadelphia 11/02/45, arrived United Kingdom mid/late November 1945
Departed Cardiff, Wales 12/14/45, arrived New York 12/30/45
Departed New York 01/23/46, arrived United Kingdom early/mid February 1946
Departed Dublin, Ireland 02/20/46, arrived NY 03/05/46
For the voyages above, your father was listed variously as holding the shipboard position of junior assistant purser/pharmacist's mate or simply purser. (For those voyages in which he was "junior assistant purser" there was no other purser.) The purser on a merchant ship is the business agent for the ship, maintaining paper work and records such as payroll, ship purchases (food, fuel and supplies, for example), maintained the slop chest (a supply of clothing and personal items for sale to the crew as a charge against their wages), etc. He would not have been actively involved in the actual sailing of the ship. Additionally, since merchant ships in World War II typically did not carry a physician, the purser was trained (minimally) in medical care. He had access to medications and drugs, medical equipment and supplies, and medical textbooks and manuals, and was capable of providing first aid, treating injuries and illnesses, even performing minor operations, and otherwise seeing to the health of the crew. Officers might also have first aid training but the purser/pharmacist's mate was generally the only person aboard with any more extensive medical training.
JACOB THOMPSON was a Liberty ship but an unusual Liberty in that she was a tanker. Of more than 2,700 Liberty ships built, only 62 were tankers. Since tankers would be a high-value target to the enemy, Liberty tankers were disguised as ordinary Liberty cargo ships. All of the piping, pumps, valves and vents that a tanker needs was concealed on or below deck, and dummy deck machinery was added to simulate the appearance of a standard cargo ship. JACOB THOMPSON was constructed by the Delta Shipbuilding Co. of New Orleans in 123 days between June 7, 1943 and October 8, 1943. She survived the war and was sold to a private shipping company in 1948 and sold again and renamed in 1950. She sailed under the U.S. and Mexican flags before being scrapped in 1968 in Minatitlan, Mexico. In limited information I was able to find she often carried diesel fuel as cargo and on one occasion also carried gliders, presumably disassembled, as deck cargo. See http://www.shipbuildinghistory.com/history/shipyards/4emergencylarge/wwtwo/delta.htm (scroll to hull no. 68) and http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/LibShipsJ-Ji.html (scroll to the name of the ship). She was named after Jacob Thompson (1810-1885), a Congressman from Mississippi 1839-1851 and Secretary of the Interior 1857-1861, who later served in the Confederate Army.
JARED INGERSOLL was a standard Liberty cargo ship. She was built by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore in 62 days, June 24, 1942-August 25, 1942. On April 1, 1944, prior to your fatherís service in her, she was damaged in an air attack off Algeria and beached at Algiers, Algeria. She was repaired in May and returned to service, surviving the war. She was scrapped in 1964 in Wilmington, DE. See http://www.shipbuildinghistory.com/history/shipyards/4emergencylarge/wwtwo/bethfairfield.htm (scroll to hull no. 2047) and http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/LibShipsJ-Ji.html#JamesJ (scroll to the name of the ship). She was named after Jared Ingersoll (1749-1822), a member of the Continental Congress from Connecticut.
If you are interested in obtaining photographs of the ships in which your father served, see this web page for sources of photographs of World War II-era merchant ships: http://www.usmm.org/photosource.html. Your best bet is Mr. Hultgren, the second source listed, since his collection specializes in Liberty ships. I know enough about his collection to say that he apparently has images for both of the above ships. I understand Mr. Hultgren charges $10 each for an 8x10 print. He has no e-mail or Internet access so you will have to send a letter. Mr. Hultgren is quite elderly but at last report was actively managing his collection.
Finally, you may be able to obtain a copy of your father's complete merchant marine service record via the U.S. Coast Guard. His record would identify the ships in which he served, applicable dates, training, shipboard positions held, etc. Please see this page from the Armed Guard website that I manage: http://armed-guard.com/searchmil.html. In particular see section A.2. Records of Individuals Ė Merchant Marine. You will have to contact the U.S. Coast Guard's National Maritime Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The Coast Guard was and is responsible for issuing certain documents ("seaman's papers") to U.S. merchant mariners, so should have information about your father's merchant marine career. You will have to provide as much identifying information as possible about your father. There may be a fee for this service but the Coast Guard would not begin work without informing you of any charges.
Good luck. I hope this information is useful.
Ron Carlson, Webmaster
Armed Guard / Merchant Marine website